Tag Archives: neighborhoods

It’s Always Something

The 11 year old and I headed to the Washington Heights Armory late this afternoon to watch a high school track meet img_3533 in which the 14 year old did her thing.

It’s a quick ride north to 168th Street on the No. 1 train during which the 11 year old noted that everyone in the subway spoke Spanish. Everyone but the two of us, of course, which is only fodder for the school kid to continue his language studies. He proceeded to conjugate ir/to go for me and told me how to say 168th Street in Spanish. In less than 20 minutes, we arrived at the designated subway station, with it’s high ceilings, globe lanterns img_3517, wall mounted lighting, AND an overpass (rather than the underpass to traverse the tracks, all of which looked quite different from midtown and downtown stations. One of the highlights as we headed toward the station exit was an obligatory elevator ride up to ground level. An “operator” sat on a stool nestled behind a yellow barricade of sorts while he pushed buttons. He played a recording of latin music for our listening enjoyment. No head phones, the real deal.

Once above ground, it’s hard not to notice NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center as it covers most of the surrounding blocks. Historically, Washington Heights was a refuge for eastern European Jews and for all I know, my paternal grandparents lived there before they “made it” in the garment industry and moved to Lawrence, NY. I’ll never know since there’s no one around to ask… Today, it’s said to have a heavy concentration of Dominicans but a Starbucks on a corner overshadowed any obvious ethnicity. Of course, our mission was to find The Armory, an indoor track and field situation for high schoolers. Who knew? The 100 year old building charged $5 for spectator admission but it was well worth the price to see the interior and cheer for the home team. When I asked the 11 year old, if he was enjoying our adventure north, he replied “every minute of it,” and smiled sincerely. It helped that his school had athletes racing in the boys’ heats.

Legwork complete, we headed homeward. Again, though in reverse, it was easy to ride the No. 1 train south from 168th street. We hopped off at Columbus Circle to catch the No. 5 bus across town. During the transfer, a series of police cars lined the circle, in formation, img_3542 red lights flashing. The officers informed us that “occasionally they are stationed at random points for surveillance.” Sure. Whatever. The bus came, we rode across town in time to see Bergdorf Goodman’s creepy holiday window decorations img_3553 being dismantled. The snowflake twinkling above the intersection of 57th Street on Fifth Avenue, however, still shines bright, img_35472 as a reminder of UNICEF’s efforts to help save, protect and improve the lives of children around the world through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation. There’s so much to be done…

Salaam, City Dwellers

No sooner had I dodged nearly 15 black clad male paparazzi who were hot on the trail of Kate Hudson as she, together with two friends, exited Barneys on Madison Ave at 61st Street did I hear the chants of men img_3509 marching northbound on Park Avenue between 61st and 65th Streets.

I recalled a similar procession this time last year, when a group of Shiite observers, both men and women, gathered together, albeit the fairer sex stands at the tail end or along the perimeter, in memory of the death of Hussein, the grandson of Islamic prophet, Mohammed. Many of the male participants beat their chests as a display of their devotion to Imam Husayn and in remembrance of his suffering during the Battle of Karbala. Most of the people are dressed in black for mourning, there is a ceremonial white horse clad in colorful regalia and young boys carry signs and ceremonial banners. img_3484

A group of four or five men offered me a cup of tea from their truck img_3479when I asked what was in their cauldron. I accepted and learned that the procession takes place in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and serves as a way to remember the loss of a leader.

Bystanders from the toney upper east side neighborhood are used to seeing parades that flow along Fifth Avenue. There’s the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and last year, we watched the Pope in his Pope Mobile roll merrily along.

Because the procession spanned a space of four blocks, the police cars and their blinking red lights could be seen at the beginning and the end of the gathering. Larger gatherings, like the ones that residents from the tony upper east side are more familiar with, are also led and concluded by squad cars. Similarly, we watch the parades and observe differences, as in the German Day parade where Alpine men where lederhosen march to the tune of an oompah band.

One lady in her 70’s, who wasn’t Muslim, remarked that she’d never seen anything like this before in all her years in the ‘hood. A man in his 50’s explained that it wasn’t new, that they were Shias and that in other parts of the world, processions like the one today happen with regularity. A doorman told me that the procession ran along the Avenue up to the Pakistani consul’s office on East 65th Street. I didn’t stick around to follow the trail. Suffice it to say, for some the sight is new. For our children, it is their multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world.

May we all live together in peace and prosperity.

A Good Man is Hard to Find

I was on the phone with my sister the other night/early morning, a weekend ritual we have to check in and make sure the other got home safely. We both had fun with our respective friends, and just enough to drink that we were feeling a little confessional. “I’m on J-Date!” My sister blurted out as I was kicking my heels off by my front door, complaining about the lack of tall men in New York. “I’m 22 and I’m on J-Date,” she said again, for emphasis. “Well, I’m on Match.com again,” I told her, laughing. “This online dating is so weird,” said my slightly more uptown sister, “like you can take people on virtual dates in chat rooms called ‘Sunset Beach’ or ‘Wine Tasting,’ or ‘Lounge Lizard.’ Ewwww!”

“I tried J-Date, for about five minutes,” I confessed, “but no one was taller than 5’6″ on that site.”

Side note: yes, dear Uptown, J-Date is a Jewish dating site. However, the sister and I, having grown up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, find it odd that the average Roman Catholic doesn’t celebrate
Passover or Yom Kipper.

“I don’t get it,” said my confused sister, “we live in a city populated with men. I pass hundreds on the street every day. Why do I feel the need to turn to a website for dating?”

“It’s simple, you live in Chelsea, I live in the Union Square/West Village area. 95 percent of the men around us are searching for love … within their own sex.”

Long pauses filled the void in conversation as we both pondered this notion, until it hit me. Carrie Bradshaw killed it for us. Before Darren Starr and Sex & the City, New York was considered the place to meet men, good-looking men, wealthy men, smart men, talented me, straight men, gay men, cosmopolitan men. Now, everyone from here to Kazakhstan knows that 20-something and 30-something straight, non-asshole men in New York are a rarity. And if you do find one, you marry him, no questions asked. Which leaves even more slim pickings for the rest of us. So where did all of the men go? My theory? They never made it to New York. One episode of Sex & the City had their feet planted firmly in the Midwestern crop soil. I think the stereotype of “we” women (via SATC ) scared them off.

And I don’t believe it’s just SATC. I think it was Friends and Will & Grace that didn’t help either. You can be the redheaded neurotic girl with the gay husband, the clean freak, the loopy, hippy-dippy girlfriend, the high maintenance one, or the drunk, gold-digger, but apparently you can’t be all of them, all at once. Pick a character and stick with it. Can you imagine these poor boys from all over the world coming here expecting what they see on TV? Giant apartments, movie stars, an endless supply of cash, clothes, etc. And the reality is usually very far from it. Yes, people have money, big apartments and yes, there are movie stars, but they don’t live near your 400 sq. foot studio walk-up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I ran this theory by my sister, who agreed, but added a caveat: “A good man is hard to find,” she said, ” but in this city you hear more men saying that than women.”

-Downtown

Bright Lights, Small City

There are days when New York feels less like a city and more like a small town. Granted, we both live in neighborhoods, on streets and in buildings, so that small town quality is already quite evident if you tend to stay in a ten block radius of your apartment. I also tend to stay away from areas that are inhabited by people I don’t particularly like. For instance, I avoid going over to 19th and Broadway. If I have to hit up ABC Carpet or Fishs Eddy, I do it during a week day, when I have less of a chance of running into the person I hate who lives on 18th and Broadway. Hopefully, she’s at her day job. I saw her once, while making the mistake of walking down Broadway to return home, but luckily, the “Walk” sign flashed and I crossed the street, managing to avoid her.

I try to avoid the Columbus Circle Whole Foods, as I once ran into a guy I went on a date with, whose nickname was “Wolfman.” And though he was a decent-seeming guy, I spent a large part of the date trying to avoid staring at his excessive amount of arm hair, which made it look like his watch was drowning. Ironically, I saw him in the produce section, where we was checking out the fuzzy-skinned peaches. To add insult to injury, I wasn’t wearing any make-up. I still can’t decide what was worse, seeing a guy you never called back or seeing him on a Sunday afternoon makeup-less, a little hungover and sniffing the flat parsley (just to make sure it wasn’t in fact, cilantro). I had forgotten he lived in that neighborhood, so it remained on my “places to avoid” list for six months.

But it still throws me for a loop when I see people walking in my neighborhood who shouldn’t be there. Today, I was walking down Greenwich Street, headed to Tea & Sympathy to meet an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in nine years. A half-block away from my destination, I ran into my old screenwriting partner from college, who now lives in Los Angeles. I hadn’t seen her in five years. She just happened to be in town for a bridal shower this weekend. While waiting outside the restaurant, a woman walked by me pushing her baby stroller. It was my old college RA, who just moved from Portland, ME to the UWS and was bringing her new son, Owen, for a stroll downtown. Then, I had the requisite celebrity encounter when Kiefer Sutherland showed up for teatime and a fan asked if I wouldn’t mind taking a picture of him with Mr. Sutherland. Click.

After tea, I had to head over to Kate’s Paperie to replenish my stationery. I was too late, the store had just closed. Another woman joined in my dismay as she walked up to the door. When we turned to each other to remark on our “luck,” we realized simultaneously that we knew each other, having worked together five years ago, before she moved back to London. Turns she’s in town for a temporary job with the Tribeca Film Festival. After a brief catch up session, we parted ways.

Walking back home, I was now on the lookout for other people I knew, expecting them to appear around every corner. I sometimes mind the small town atmosphere that comes with living in New York, but at least today I was prepared, I was wearing make-up.

–Downtown